When the going got tough, Colony's tough defense got going.
The Knights topped host Kenai Central 15-12, 11-15, 13-15, 15-12 and 15-11 Friday in the Region III/4A opener for both teams.
"I think when my girls start playing defense at their full potential, they'll be unstoppable," Colony coach Faith Scott said. "The difference in the game tonight came when we started playing good defense."
As the final scores indicate, the match was close throughout. In the fifth and deciding game, Colony took a 10-6 lead, but Kenai came back to tie it at 10 on a kill by Angelica Carreon.
However, Colony gradually pulled away from the Kardinals. On four of the last five points the Knights scored, Kenai was not able to get the Colony serve back over the net.
"I think since it was the last game, we were nervous and excited at the same time," said Kenai senior captain Crystal Morris. "There were a couple moments where we had more miscommunication than we wanted, and that made a big difference."
Kenai coach Tamra Wear, who coached her first varsity match for Kenai not counting the preseason jamboree in Homer, said such moments of unfamiliarity were understandable.
"It was a different lineup than the one we played with in Homer," Wear said. "It will take us some time to get used to each other."
The Kardinals showed they have weapons Friday. Carreon had 21 kills, 11 digs and three aces, Morris had 20 digs, 10 kills and one ace, and setter Ally deMello had 42 assists, 18 digs and four aces.
"I'm proud of the way we played," Morris said. "We have major young talent, and then we have the big dogs.
"With the young girls coming on and the big dogs already in place, I'm looking forward to playing Colony again."
The Kardinals did control portions of the match. Kenai came out strong in the first game, but had trouble scoring points due to six missed serves.
Kenai came back to win game two, then rebounded from a 10-2 deficit to take the third game. The Kardinals then jumped out to a 9-3 lead in the fourth game, but the Knights charged back to force the fifth game.
"We don't like to go to five games," Morris said, "but somehow we always do."
It was certainly farther than Colony was expecting to go Friday.
Kenai's Crystal Morris bumps the ball Friday.
Photo by M. SCOTT MOON
"I don't mean this to sound bad, but I was surprised by Kenai," Scott said. "They have a great setter, and they also have some hitters in the middle that can do some damage."
Amy Burns and Rochelle Ray paced the Knights with 13 kills each, while Burns added an impressive 31 digs. Also for Colony, Zeenie Preston had 16 assists and Alyson Boyd had three blocks.
Palmer 3, Kenai 0
The Moose defeated the host Kardinals Saturday 15-5, 15-13 and 15-11.
In the first game, Palmer's Emily Sakis served the last four points of the match for the victory.
Sakis also was successful on the serve in the second game, serving out eight of Palmer's points, including the last three. Angelica Carreon, Heather McIntyre, Lenora John and Hailey Wisniewski all had three service points in the second game for Kenai.
In the third game, Jayme Irvine gave Kenai trouble, collecting eight service points. Ally deMello paced Kenai in that game with four points serving.
Palmer 3, Soldotna 1
Soldotna 3, Colony 0
The host Stars split a pair of matches in the opening weekend of Region III/4A volleyball play.
Friday, Soldotna lost to the Moose 15-5, 9-15, 15-7 and 15-7.
With Rachel Besse in the middle, Palmer did a lot of tipping over the 6-foot-1 middle hitter's block.
"Palmer obviously did a good job tipping, and our defense would not adjust," Soldotna coach Pako Whannell said. "We've gone over it and over it in practice, but we're just not there.
"We kind of figured it out in the last two games, but it was too late."
Hillary Zobeck had 16 kills and three aces in the match for Soldotna, while Besse added 10 kills and seven kill blocks. Also for the Stars, Stacey Foster had 29 assists, Haley Smith had five kills and Heather Roach had four aces.
Saturday, the Stars notched their first win of the region season with a 15-11, 15-3, 15-5 thumping of the Knights.
Whannell was happy to see juniors Lauren Christensen and Jacquelyn Cowan step up in the match. Each had five digs.
"I was waiting for the younger players to step up and they did a really good job," Whannell said. "They were all over the place hitting, digging and serving."
Foster, a sophomore, also continued to impress with 21 assists, five kills and four aces.
"This year, she has matured as well," Whannell said. "She is getting the sets out to the hitters so they can attack them on a consistent basis.
"She's really become a leader on the court."
Zobeck had 13 kills, one block kill and two aces in the match, while Besse had six kills and eight block kills, and Roach had five digs.
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